Melbourne: Adani's 21.7 billion dollar coal mine project in Australia Wednesday faced a fresh legal challenge after traditional owners of land in Queensland state opposed the leases granted to the controversy-hit venture, drawing a sharp reaction from the Indian mining giant which termed it as "politically-motivated".
Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) representative group said it has filed an interlocutory application in the Federal Court of Australia challenging the leases in Queensland's Galilee Basin, a forerunner of further legal action.
The application would argue that the mining leases, announced by Queensland state's mines minister Anthony Lynham this month, were not properly issued.
"The Queensland government issued the mine leases in the absence of the consent of the W&J people to Carmichael mine, and in the face of their three-time rejection of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani," a statement said.
In response, Adani Mining Australia said that the W&J group was not a complete representation of the traditional owners of the Galilee Basin.
"The proposed action challenging the granting of the leases is being brought by a minority element as opposed to the wider group of 12 authorised applicants of the Wanjan and Jagalingou (W&J) people. So this appeal is not representative of the full W&J group," an Adani spokesperson said.
The W&J group also released a letter dated October 15, 2015, in which Lynham said he would consider the lease applications after all legislative requirements were satisfactorily explored.
W&J spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said, "We have formally rejected this disastrous project three times. In this light, Lynham's issuing of the mining leases is a shameful episode in the trashing of Traditional Owners' rights by the exercise of government power.
"In a letter to our legal counsel in October 2015, and again this year, Lynham said that he intended to await the outcome of our Federal Court Judicial Review before issuing any leases. His letter was clearly not worth the paper it was written on, and is now a demonstrable show of his bad faith and the betrayal of us by the Government," he said.
"Lynham's decision is also reckless politics. As he himself indicated publicly, issuing the mining leases prior to the determination of our legal challenge to Carmichael puts the leases at risk. The minister's treatment of us, and his failure to allow legal due process to play out, calls into question his integrity and the exercise of his powers, Burragubba said.
"In filing this action today, we are making good on our pledge to oppose this mine every step of the way. We will continue to pursue all legal avenues, Australian and international, and test the limits of the law in this country," he said.
The W&J spokesperson also said that they have filed a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on the systemic discrimination in the administration of the Native Title system in Australia.
"These actions show we are standing strong," he said.
Adani's plan to build one of the world's biggest coal mines in Australia has been hampered time and again. A federal court in August last year had revoked the original approval due to?environmental concerns.
In October last year, the project got a new lease of life after the Australian government gave its re-approval.
Adani's statement further noted that today's announcement of an attempted legal challenge to the state government's granting of mining leases "only served to reinforce Adani's prudence in pointing to the ongoing need for approvals and appeals certainty for its projects in the state, and in particular its timeline for moving to the construction phase, pending the conclusion of anticipated appeals".
"At every stage, politically-motivated activists have sought to delay and deny the benefits of these job creating projects for our state from going ahead. Within minutes of the Government's announcement that the mining leases would be granted, activist groups were announcing they would challenge the decision - an intent to appeal both before the leases were granted, and before reasons for the leases being granted had been seen," the statement added.
The company further claimed that it was working "constructively and respectfully with the full group of W&J applicants" to finalise the proposed Indigenous Land Use Agreement in accordance with the legitimate statutory process.
Stating that the company, at every stage had worked with state and federal governments of all persuasions in accepting and abiding by the strict and rigorous conditions imposed on its projects, the statement said the conditions attached to the mining lease by Lynham were no different.
It further noted that the company was determined to ensure that the W&J, together with the balance of the traditional owners that span the length of its projects that have already concluded ILUAs with the company - the Birriah, Jangga and Juru traditional owners - enjoy the benefits of these vital job and export creating projects proceeding.